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The Meaning of blink-182’s “I Miss You”

Blink-182 press photo from 2004. Photo by Nigel Crane/Redferns

Blink-182’s 2003 self-titled album signaled an era of change for the band, who took a sonic step away from the irreverent, gritty pop-punk that dominated their youth towards a more polished sound. Hit single “I Miss You” is the centerpiece for this shift, and arguably one of their best songs.

Given its mellow sound and infectious hook, this song took the world by storm upon its release, making nearly as big a splash as they did with 1999’s “All the Small Things”, topping it in sales but not in radio airplay.

“Feeling This” was the lead single from the album and was also a hit, though not nearly as big as the follow-up single, “I Miss You” despite being a rocker like many of their older beloved songs. “Down” followed as the third single.

The self-titled album came after a brief yearlong hiatus for blink-182, and just before they took an “indefinite hiatus” in 2005 that lasted four years. As many fans know, the band was never quite the same after returning from the hiatus in 2009, and following the 2011 semi-flop of Neighborhoods, Tom DeLonge left the band for good.

Blink-182 (2003).

However, Blink-182 is a fantastic send-off for the blink that we knew and loved, and while it does feature a change from their early sound, there is a lot of that same fun-loving spirit to enjoy, with an added tinge of melodrama thanks to songs like “I Miss You”.

While the band did delve into more serious territory with songs like “Adam’s Song” off Enema of the State (1999) and “Stay Together For The Kids” off Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), those songs were very much four-chord driven three-piece rock songs. “I Miss You” and much of Blink-182 adds more layers to the sound, including piano, cello, and more.

Penned in collaboration between Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge, the meaning of the lyrics to “I Miss You” have long been a source of mystery. Due to the fact that both Mark and Tom had young kids at the time of its release, many then assumed the song was about missing their families while out on tour, thouh that is not necessarily the case.

Tom DeLonge spoke on this during an interview with MTV in 2006:

Once the lyrics start singing about a spider eating the insides of a bug, I think people take that and go, ‘Maybe it’s not about their families.’ And it talks about Halloween on Christmas and all these different dark kinds of things. The song’s more about the vulnerability and kind of heart-wrenching pain you feel when you’re in love and when you’re a guy and you’re trying to tell a girl, ‘Don’t waste your time coming and talking to me because, in my head at least, you probably already gave me up a long time ago.’

Tom DeLonge on the meaning of “I Miss You”.

The overarching theme of “I Miss You” is one of longing for a love gone wrong. Maybe the love had poor circumstances, but it also had plenty of passion and beautiful moments. Looking closely at the lyrics, one can decipher this.

Mark Hoppus live with Blink-182 in 2004. Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Let’s dive in, starting with the first verse, sung by Mark Hoppus:

Hello, there
The angel from my nightmare
The shadow in the background of the morgue
The unsuspecting victim
Of darkness in the valley
We can live like Jack and Sally if we want
Where you can always find me
And we’ll have Halloween on Christmas
And in the night, we’ll wish this never ends
We’ll wish this never ends

First verse to “I Miss You” by blink-182.

Here, Mark refers to this lost lover as the angel from his nightmare, suggesting that their breakup has been a nightmare for him, but she still stands as a shining figure in his mind. He then uses the image of a shadow in a morgue as a metaphor for this person being a bright light in a dark, gloomy place.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Then, Hoppus makes a reference to cult movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), which features main characters Jack Skellington, “The Pumpkin King of Halloween Town”, and his Frankenstein-like lover Sally. The plot features Jack and his quest to save Christmas Town, with help from Sally and her premonitions, thus the lyric about “Halloween on Christmas” and the fantastical nature of the lyrics.

The lyrics also represent a fantasy of spending time with this special ex-lover, forgetting about the troubles of the past and just enjoying the moment.

In these instances, you might find yourself wishing that it would never end, but reality always comes creeping back to remind you of why things fell apart in the first place.

After this, Mark’s voice is heard repeating “I miss you, I miss you” before Tom’s iconic voice chimes in with the second verse:

Where are you?
And I’m so sorry
I cannot sleep, I cannot dream tonight
I need somebody and always
This sick, strange darkness
Comes creeping on, so haunting every time
And as I stare, I counted
The webs from all the spiders
Catching things and eating their insides
Like indecision to call you
And hear your voice of treason
Will you come home and stop this pain tonight?
Stop this pain tonight

Second verse to “I Miss You” by blink-182.

Tom’s verse depicts him wondering where his love has gotten off to, feeling apologetic and struggling to sleep. He clearly wants nothing more than to have her back, and he thinks that the only way to escape the pain would be for her to come home to him tonight.

He finds himself staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep and counting the spider webs. Watching them eating the things they catch, and eating them from the inside out. This is a metaphor for the way that Tom is feeling, unable to focus on anything other than the darkness that surrounds him. It was inspired by The Cure’s song “Lullaby”.

Tom also uses a bit of wordplay here, with the “voice of treason” lyric. This sounds like the common phrase “voice of reason”, except the meaning is just about the opposite. The voice of reason would be offering guidance and often comfort, however Tom knows that his girlfriend is going to betray all of his hopes of reconciliation, and thus is afraid to call her and face his fate.

Tom DeLonge live with Blink-182 in 2004. Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images.

The rest of the song is almost entirely the chorus, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This incredibly catchy hook has influenced the sound of the pop landscape permanently — mostly thanks to Tom’s delivery and unique vocal affect:

Don’t waste your time on me, you’re already
The voice inside my head (I miss you, I miss you)
Don’t waste your time on me, you’re already
The voice inside my head (I miss you, I miss you)

Chorus to “I Miss You” by blink-182.

The meaning in the hook speaks to a lack of confidence and a feeling of obsession. Mark and Tom are constantly thinking about the failed relationship, hence the “voice inside my head”. She doesn’t need to waste her time rejecting him, as they already know the answer, but that doesn’t stop the incessant thoughts.

Perhaps “I Miss You” is so relatable because everyone has found themselves in a state of despair following the end of a relationship. Hopefully if you have experienced this you never have to experience it again, because it truly sucks. If you haven’t experienced it, consider yourself lucky… but just wait.

Watch the music video for “I Miss You” by blink-182 below